Do you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back? If your goal is to reduce your drinking, decide which days you will drink alcohol and how many drinks you will allow yourself per day. Try to commit to at least two days each week when you won’t drink at all.
When do you want to stop drinking or start drinking less? Tomorrow? In a week? Next month? Within six months? If you’re trying to stop drinking, set a specific quit date.
After you’ve set your goals to either stop or cut back your drinking, write down some ideas on how you can help yourself accomplish these goals. For example:
Get rid of temptations. Remove all alcohol, barware, and other alcohol-related paraphernalia from your home and office.
Announce your goal. Let friends, family members, and co-workers know that you’re trying to stop or cut back on drinking. If they drink, ask them to support your recovery by not doing so in front of you.
Be upfront about your new limits. Make it clear that drinking will not be allowed in your home and that you may not be able to attend events where alcohol is being served.
Avoid bad influences. Distance yourself from people who don’t support your efforts to stop drinking or respect the limits you’ve set. This may mean giving up certain friends and social connections.
Learn from the past. Reflect on previous attempts to stop or reduce your drinking. What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently this time to avoid pitfalls?
Whether or not you can successfully cut back on your drinking depends on the severity of your drinking problem. If you’re an alcoholic—which, by definition, means you aren’t able to control your drinking—it’s best to try to stop drinking entirely. But if you’re not ready to take that step, or if you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but want to cut back for personal or health reasons, the following tips can help:
Set your drinking goal. Choose a limit for how much you’ll drink, but make sure your limit is not more than one drink a day if you’re a woman, two drinks a day if you’re a man—and try to have some days each week when you won’t drink alcohol at all. Write your drinking goal down and keep it where you will frequently see it, such as on your phone or taped to your refrigerator.
Keep a record of your drinking to help you reach your goal. For 3 to 4 weeks, write down every time you have a drink and how much you drink. Reviewing the results, you may be surprised at your weekly drinking habits.
Cut down drinking at home. Try to limit or remove alcohol from your home. It’s much easier to avoid drinking if you don’t keep temptations around.
Drink slower. When you drink, sip slowly and take a break of 30 minutes or one hour between drinks. Or drink soda, water, or juice between alcoholic drinks. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so make sure you eat food when you drink.
Schedule one or two alcohol-free days each week. Then, try to stop drinking for one week. Make a note about how you feel physically and mentally on these days—recognizing the benefits may help you to cut down for good.
Some people are able to stop drinking on their own or with the help of a 12-step program or other support group (see the Get more help section below for links). Others need medical supervision in order to withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. Which option is best for you depends on how much you’ve been drinking, how long you’ve had a problem, the stability of your living situation, and other health issues you may have.
The first step is often to consult your primary care doctor or GP. Your doctor can evaluate your drinking patterns, diagnose any co-occurring disorders, assess your overall health, and offer treatment referrals. They may even be able to prescribe medication to help you quit.